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Most Teens Admit to Previous Drowsy Driving

October 30, 2016

Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Adults juggling career and family responsibilities today aren’t the only ones at risk for drowsy driving. More than half (56%) of teens with a driver’s license admit to having driven when they felt too tired to perform their best, according to a new study.

This research, conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), also found that 32% of licensed teenage drivers are still driving drowsy at least sometimes and nearly one in 10 have completely fallen asleep behind the wheel before.

“Drowsiness impairs driving performance and reaction time,” said William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety. “When our brains are tired, our attention, judgment and ability to act are greatly impacted, which has the potential for disaster on the road, particularly if there’s inclement weather or a critical situation requiring quick response. The situation can be exacerbated when the driver is a teenager without much experience. If parents, however, address this issue head on, they can foster safer driving practices to help remind their teens of the importance of staying alert on the road.”

Parents may also be unwittingly contributing to drowsy driving behaviors. In fact, 39% of teens surveyed said that household and family responsibilities impacted their sleep but only 11% of parents believed this contributed to their teens not getting an adequate amount. Additionally, 42% of teens said they aren’t getting enough sleep because of early-morning activities. On the other hand, only 19% of parents think the activities are the culprit. 

“The pressures of school, sports, extracurricular activities and friends can be overwhelming, and teens may not always have the confidence or self-awareness to raise a hand and ask for help if they’re running on empty,” said Dr. Gene Beresin, senior advisor on adolescent psychiatry with SADD and executive director of The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Parents should have routine conversations with their teens beginning with open-ended questions to gauge the teen’s perspective on why they may be prone to drowsy driving. One good path to less worry is for parents to help teens map out their schedules to ensure they get enough sleep before early morning activities and have a ride home if staying out late.”

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